May 10, 2013the director's eye at the Tribeca Film festival
The major New York film festival took place between 17 - 28 April. Overall, the city’s most important festival drew in 117,000 people and featured 400 showings and events, including 80 feature length and 60 short films. The winner of the narrative section was the excellent Australian director Kim Mordaunt for The Rocket
One of the most interesting documentaries to be selected this year was I Got Somethin 'to Tell You
, directed by actor Whoopi Goldberg. It recounts the life of comic actor Moms Mabley and the many artists that were influenced by her, including Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Jerry Stiller and Harry Belafonte. Another good documentary was the one that offered a portrait of the comic legend Richard Pryor. It described his career progression and rise to fame, which saw him become one of the most popular comic actors of the 20th century. Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic
is an entertaining film by Marina Zenovich that reveals the demons Pryor confronted throughout his entire life and offers a reminder of how bold and dangerous artistic freedom can be.
Jason Osder’s Let the Fire Burn
recounts the events of 13 May 1985, when the Philadelphia police used military explosives on a row of houses that had been occupied by the radical African-American organisation MOVE. During that dramatic sequence the fire brigade, which was already on the scene, stood back to watch for an almost an hour as the flames engulfed almost three city blocks. Six adults and five children died in the blaze and 61 homes of the West working class area were destroyed. This film by Jason Osder is the first documentary to focus on this harrowing and mixed up chapter of contemporary American history.
In addition, from our own perspective (the director's eye
- a fund for the development of talent within African cinema), it is important to analyse the significant prominence given to the winners of the annual Tribeca Film Institute funds during the course of the festival. The institute has created a support programme for the preparation of screenplays for fictional films and documentaries that promotes the work of directors by providing grants, resources and consultants for a year, while ensuring greater access to contacts within the sector. The programme and the respective funds are divided in to six categories: Tribeca All Access
, TFI Documentary Fund
, Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
, TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund
, TFI Latin America Media Arts Fund
. Numerous films have been supported in the different production and post-production phases, through contributions ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 dollars. Eligibility for Tribeca funding relates to the content of film projects, but there is also a focus on the origins of young filmmakers – with preference afforded to those having greater difficulty accessing existing national and private cinema funds.
The history of the Tribeca festival, which was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal with the aim of helping to regenerate Lower Manhattan area after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is somewhat controversial. It was characterised by the tendency to overlook auteur films in favour of more 'commercia' cinema. In 2009, after years of staunch criticism from within the industry, the Tribeca festival underwent the first major transformation in its history: De Niro secured the services of the man who had managed the Sundance festival for 11 years, Geoffrey Gilmore. He is currently Chief Creative Officer of Tribeca Enterprises and since his appointment the festival has focused increasingly on independent cinema. This trend was confirmed in 2012, with the appointment of Fréderic Boyer – the ex director of Cannes film festival’s quinzaine des réalisateurs - as artistic director.
The results of this transformation have been seen quickly and the festival has made evident progress, especially in terms of the excellent selection of American documentaries and feature length international fictional films - even though the quality of Tribeca’s narrative films remains a weak point. Nevertheless, during the course of its twelve year history, the cultural event has fought to compete and obtain global previews, not attracted by the Sundance Festival or other leading festivals, and has established itself as an important event in the international cinema scene.Image: photo from The Rocket, by Kim Mordaunt.